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Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead by…
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Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead

by Nancy Kilpatrick (Editor)

Other authors: Colleen Anderson (Contributor), Kelley Armstrong (Contributor), Natasha Beaulieu (Contributor), Claude Bolduc (Contributor), Rebecca Bradley (Contributor)19 more, Mary E. Choo (Contributor), Heather Clitheroe (Contributor), Kevin Cockle (Contributor), Gemma Files (Contributor), Victoria Fisher (Contributor), Jennifer Greylyn (Contributor), Ronald Hore (Contributor), Tanya Huff (Contributor), Sandra Kasturi (Contributor), Claude Lalumière (Contributor), Kevin Nunn (Contributor), Rhea Rose (Contributor), Michael Skeet (Contributor), Bradley Somer (Contributor), Jerome Stueart (Contributor), Steve Vernon (Contributor), Bev Vincent (Contributor), Sandra Wickham (Contributor), Rio Youers (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Evolve (1), Victoria Nelson: Blood (Quid Pro Quo : short story)

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Evolve is a better-than-average horror anthology, but not a fantastic one. The stories in this book have an astonishingly drastic range. The terrible ones outnumber the great ones, but the great ones were striking enough to pull the lot of them into an overall higher range. To help wary readers determine whether this collection is for them (and, if so, which stories inside might be worth more of their time than others) I'll go ahead and outline a few key points about each story.

The anthology opens with Sandra Kasturi's "Let the Night In", a poem actually and not an altogether awful poem. The arrangement and structure is actually very nice and there are some great lines scattered here and there, but the theme of the poem makes it a bit difficult to keep your eyes from rolling. Had I taken the time to read the poem before checking the book out at the library it may have never found its way to my house.

Unfortunately, the next piece, Kelley Armstrong's Learning Curve is similarly cringe-worthy. It's basically a vampire story in the tradition of the early 21st century Underworld-style vampire tradition and I couldn't find a single redeeming thing about it. Perhaps that sort of thing is just not my style, but there was also barely any plot to speak of and the characters were dull.

Ronald Hore's Chrysalis was a step up from Learning Curve, but not a very high step up. Maybe half a step. It follows a teenage girl with some serious father issues, but any punch the story might have had is lost by the fact that it's clear (because of the anthology it is in) that it is a vampire story. There is no punchline, no twist, even though the entire point of the story rests on getting its reader through without letting on that the protagonist is a vampire. The writing is marginally better than the story that came before it, but the dialogue is shockingly bad. The characters are boring and forgettable. Next please.

Mother of Miscreants by Jennifer Greylyn was actually downright *offensive*, but it's possible that not everyone would have the same reaction to it that I did. It attempts to expand on the "Lillith is the mother of all vampires" trope and pulls it off, but doesn't seem to have very much to go on once that is established aside from some very exhausting diatribe against the idea of traditional/blood-drinking vampires.

Resonance by Mary E. Choo was the story in the collection that actually made me continue reading out of sheer interest instead of out of the same impulse that forces you to stare at car accidents on the highway. It's a surprisingly sweet story about a vampire that strikes up a friendship with a neighbor against the recommendations of the other vampires she associates with (that form some sort of political organization meant to ease the day-to-day life of vampires) because, as creatures that don't age, they are forced to fake their own deaths periodically to prevent people from becoming suspicious. The protagonist is charming and independent and her relationship with her (female) neighbor borders on homoerotic whilst being downright lovely. The first story in this anthology that I would recommend.

First person is *really* hard to pull off for some reason, and Rebecca Bradley's The New Forty is a really good example of just how bad it can be. The only thing this story really has going for it is that it is perhaps the first time I've ever seen a visibly elderly vampire dealt with extensively and with any real sympathy. Unfortunately Bradley's writing just wasn't up to the task and I found myself reading over the same passages multiple times because I'd zoned out.

Michael Skeet is obviously a very skilled writer and every sentence of Red Blues showcases that talent. I was completely wrapped up in this story despite the fact that *almost nothing happens*. I am tempted to criticize it because it has so little in the way of actual story but it's such a pleasant reading experience that I can't help but highly recommend it for that reason alone. The best part is that it is actually centered on a subject that I care very little about (jazz) and I was still really taken by it. Good show!

The Drinker by Victoria Fisher stands out (in a bad way) from most of the other stories in this anthology because it is only a vampire story if you really, really stretch it. It is obviously intended to be an allegory for something else, and while allegorical stories are fine and can definitely be strong and interesting, this story just really hits you over the head with it too hard and too often. If you don't really like vampires but you like metaphors, maybe this would work better for you than it did for me.

Sleepless in Calgary by Kevin Cockle reminded me a lot of a Tales from the Crypt episode, which I guess might suggest corniness or camp to some people (and it does) but that isn't really a negative thing for me. Here is an example of a story with a twist that actually works in the context of a vampire anthology. I would be very surprised if anyone manages to guess ahead. I would normally be hesitant to even mention a twist if I felt like it was truly a surprise, but Cockle does such a good job of arranging his action and character development that I don't think it really gives anything away. This is a vampire story that steps pretty far away from the normal idea of what a vampire is but does so eloquently and with a sense of dark humor. I would recommend it highly.

Come to Me by Heather Clitheroe was much more dark and disturbing than any of the other stories up until this point and while the actual mythology that Clitheroe decides to utilize to tell her tale is a bit hard to take seriously, the horror and pain that the main character goes through is visceral and terrifying. A young American woman staying in Japan hears the call to go into the forest one day. Why is she being pulled there?

I was a little creeped out by An Ember Amongst the Fallen by Colleen Anderson, but I suppose that was kind of the point. The story takes place in an alternate reality in which vampires treat humans as cattle. The most deplorable crime of all in this society is having sex with a human being. You can probably guess where this goes. I'd say it was definitely middle-grade quality but not really the kind of story I'm interested in reading.

Mamma's Boy by Sandra Wickham was a bit of gimmick. The predatory baby thing has been so played out the past few years that I'm not sure why anyone bothers giving it a go anymore. The mild twist at the end only makes its unoriginality even more stark.

If you're interested in some tame gross-out Claude Bolduc's The Morning After will probably work for you. There is some attempt at telling a poignant tale about loss and abandonment in here I think but it's mostly just gross-out. And eyeballs. It is translated, so I don't feel very comfortable spending any time really critiquing the prose, but it isn't awful. Words like "spurt" and "pop" abound.

I adored Claude Lalumiere's All You Can Eat, All The Time. It was probably the most satisfyingly creepy story in the mix, and while I started off thinking I would find the narrative voice really irritating (it's first person and the protagonist speaks like a 60s surfer movie) it actually really worked and made the ending that much more stunning and fun. I'm really impressed by the originality in this piece and love the kind of vampire that is created here.

I found out recently that, when you experience embarrassment for other people, it triggers the part of your brain that also fires when you experience physical pain, which really helped to illuminate my reading of Rhea Rose's Alia's Angel. It attempts to be some kind of philosophical, meandering piece and there is a lot of allusion about angels and loyalty and it seems that the descriptions of the setting and characters are purposefully vague. I couldn't stand it.

When I'm Armouring My Belly by Gemma Files reminded me very much of Poppy Z Brite's Lost Souls, which isn't a bad thing but does indicate some level of melodrama and drabby-chic darkness. It is a violent tale about a man that is passed around amongst groups of vampires to be used in various ways while he grapples with his own identity. I enjoyed it, but at times it was kind of hard to stand. The writing is average, the characters are mostly two-dimensional and even the protagonist doesn't really develop very much until the end. My overall impression of it was good but I also felt that it would have benefited from some cleaning-up.

I kind of didn't want to like A Murder of Vampires by Bev Vincent, but I couldn't really help it. It is definitely one of your standard law-enforcement-develops-sympathies-with-supernatural-creatures stories, but it is endearing and the perspective seemed fresh. I didn't care very much for the characterization of the vampires in this story, but the main character was so earnest that I felt sympathetic overall.

Steve Vernon's The Greatest Trick was kind of a bore. A vampire, in a world that is now aware of the existence of vampires but is wary of them, attempts to run for president -- supposedly to help clear up misconceptions about his kind. There are obvious contradictions and that is basically all the story is about. It wasn't awful but it wasn't really very entertaining.

Rio Youers' Soulfinger was the kind of story that I sometimes read and really WANT to like because I feel like I SHOULD like it. I was able to recognize things about it that were really well-done. For such a short story it manages to involve a HUGE amount of development and history and never seems to drone. It was unsettling. It had great characters. It was very unusual. Still, I couldn't get into it. I can't really identify a good reason for it so I won't say it wasn't good and I think it is actually potentially very enjoyable. If anything there might have been an underlying spiritual kind of message underneath it that felt a little jarring, but that may not be as upsetting to everyone as it was to me.

Bradley Somer's Bend to Beautiful was kind of gross, to be honest, but not in a gory kind of way. It's not even necessarily that I am a prude either, because I'm not, but there was a kind of masochistic element to this story that really doesn't do anything for me and actually came across as pathetic without very much else going on with that. A man basically submits himself to a vampire, well aware that he is basically giving permission to be killed, and yet we aren't really given any real reason to accept this or any reason to give weight to this decision. I'm not sure what it was trying to do but it didn't do it.

Evolving by Natasha Beaulieu had this really confused feeling about it that was wonderful. A young man scouts a club every night because he hears rumors that there are real vampires there, and he hopes to convince them to turn him -- after all, he already feels very much LIKE a real vampire and surely they will recognize him as one of their own? In the meantime, he tricks unsuspecting clubbers into believing HE is an actual vampire. Complications result and the ending is really great stuff. One of my favorites.

How Magnificent is the Universal Donor by Jerome Stueart was incredibly enjoyable on multiple levels, though I think the two that stood out for me the most was that it was blatantly a queer story that doesn't at all try to turn itself into a novelty and that it has such a clear, sharp sense of humor about it. The plot was really original and fun, too. There wasn't really very much not to like about it. A man checks up on his husband who is in the hospital for some routine testing and is told that he has died. Unable to believe that his partner, who has always been in the peak of health, has just suddenly dropped dead he pursues the case and stumbles upon a conspiracy of disease-filtering vampires working for the hospital. They seem to be working *for* us and are loathe to accept the stereotype of blood-sucking murderer that history has granted them, but what do they want with the protagonist's husband?

The Sun Also Shines on the Wicked by Kevin Nunn seemed to want to adopt a Victorian-style, subdued sort of narrative and it kind of does, but the story is maybe too short to really pull off what Nunn is trying to do. A vampire visits another vampire friend of his to find that he has developed a way to expose himself to minimal amounts of filtered sunlight through the use of a complicated contraption. The overall impression is a kind of melodramatic horror-movie version of one of Jules Vernes' novels. Kind of bizarre but not bad.

Quid Pro Quo by Tanya Huff really doesn't work as a stand alone story and is based in the universe she has created in a novel series of hers. I am mildly familiar with the book series and have seen the short lived television adaptation, but without those I don't know what my impression of this story would have been. It seemed bizarre to end the collection this way. I suppose it was exciting but Huff's other work thrives generally based on its characters and without any previous knowledge of them I can see how the protagonist and the other main character would seem kind of flat. It works well within the previously constructed universe but not as an independent short story.

My overall impression of the anthology is that it was hastily put together. The stories have such a wide range of quality that it almost feels like Kilpatrick just accepted the first 24 stories she received. The introduction mentions that the collection was built mostly out of vampire-selections left out of a previously published Canadian horror anthology and maybe the iffy quality of this book is just indicative of too shallow of a pool of entries. The quality may have been boosted a bit by a more careful arrangement of the stories, but all in all it depends entirely too strongly on the very few high quality stories in the group. ( )
  vombatiformes | Jun 3, 2013 |
This is an anthology of new stories from Canada all about vampires, that mainstay of horror literature.

In the 21st century, Vampires are people, too (so to speak). They go on Oprah, they have teenage daughters (with a unique set of problems in school) and they run for public office. They are jazz and blues musicians, and they have to deal with the fathers of some of the women they have killed. Their bodies can filter out a major blood disease that is ravaging mankind. They breed humans for their flesh, and siphon their blood. When they are born, they need to feed on human flesh, usually the mother’s.

They go to clubs, looking for victims, and sometimes run into bored young people who think that being bitten by a vampire will turn them into a vampire, which is not the case. They construct sets of mirrors that allow them to be exposed to the sun, and actually get a tan, without worrying about burning up. Sometimes, they have to deal with demon-hunters, complete with wooden stakes (an occupational hazard for a vampire), who don’t always know what they are doing. Occasionally, they appear to bored city workers on public transit (no one else can see them) and convince them that, to become a vampire, they have to murder someone and drink their blood, which is also not the case. There are also vampire vigilantes, who help out people in trouble at night, but who have their own ulterior motives.

Here is a first-rate bunch of stories. I am not much of a horror reader, so I was glad to see that the horror part of these tales was not overwhelming. This is very much worth reading. ( )
  plappen | Aug 2, 2010 |
Evolve contains 24 bloody snippets to water your mouth. The authors who share with us little tastes of their work defiantly brought different flavor to the modern day vampire. You can find a bit of everything in these stories including the musical, sadistic, depressed and hard core vamp. You can stumble upon the sexy, ugly, tough and weird- and not only do the stories contain creepy elements but also new ideas that give the vampire genre a fresh flair. I guess what gives the 2.5 stars, is the fact that out of 24 shorts, I only liked 4 of them. ( )
  Tinasbookreviews | Mar 26, 2010 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kilpatrick, NancyEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anderson, ColleenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Armstrong, KelleyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beaulieu, NatashaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bolduc, ClaudeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bradley, RebeccaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Choo, Mary E.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Clitheroe, HeatherContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cockle, KevinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Files, GemmaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fisher, VictoriaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Greylyn, JenniferContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hore, RonaldContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Huff, TanyaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kasturi, SandraContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lalumière, ClaudeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nunn, KevinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rose, RheaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Skeet, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Somer, BradleyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stueart, JeromeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vernon, SteveContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vincent, BevContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wickham, SandraContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Youers, RioContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kaiine, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Vampires have evolved...meet the twenty-first century vampire."--back cover.

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